The NBA Draft came and went with almost all the drama we expected. The Chicago Bulls finally found a home for Jimmy Butler, the Celtics consolidated the gains they made by trading down, and the Timberwolves walked out of the Barclays Center with the giddy, too-fast gait of a successful bank robber. Below we’ve broken down some of the most notable picks and what they mean for their teams’ chances.
Chicago Bulls: boy oh boy
You’re going to hear a lot of complaining from Chicago fans, and it’s very much deserved. After almost a year on the trade block, the Bulls sent three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a handful of decent players and a swap of first-round picks. Don’t get me wrong, Zach Lavine is a good player and Kris Dunn is a good defender, but Butler was one of the most productive players in the league and did it without any of the institutional support All-Stars usually get.
Furthermore, there are maybe a half-dozen GM’s across the league who would have given up their birthdays for Jimmy Butler six months ago, but in the end all he cost was Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, and the no. 7 pick (Lauri Markkanen). Adding to Chicago’s troubles, Dwyane Wade found 24 million reasons to pick up his player option, so it’s not like their salary cap situation is getting much better.
Usually when you trade away All-Star talent to start a rebuild, you look to get young talent, draft picks, and cap room in return. The Bulls got Lavine, Dunn, Markkanen, and an eight-figure invoice from a 35-year-old. Off to a great start!
Betting advice: Jimmy Butler’s trainer thinks they’ll go 0-82. Their win total hasn’t fallen that far yet, but it’s falling. There might even be value in taking the over, there are exactly two people in the world who have any faith in the Bulls.
Minnesota Timberwolves: instant contender?
If everyone in the Wolves’ front office doesn’t buy a new bass boat this summer I will be shocked
This looks like a really good team, with a super-talented young core and the addition of a 27-year-old All-Star who scored 24 points per game last year. This team went from promising to seriously dangerous in one draft-night transaction. As almost an afterthought, they drafted Justin Patton. A lot of pundits are maligning that pick, but he has a super high-upside that the Wolves can afford to take a chance on because of their earlier success.
Betting advice: Look for a marked improvement in their win total; Butler is one of the biggest contributors in the league in that department.
Boston Celtics/Philadelphia 76ers: a symbiotic relationship
The marquee trade of the pre-draft process was the 76ers/Celtics swap of first round picks. The Celtics foresaw that the first two picks would likely be point guards (and they already have a rather nice one, thank you very much) and that they’d likely get their pick of scoring wings at the three spot with some extra picks thrown in down the road. Despite a lot of hand-wringing about Washington’s nine wins and Lavar Ball’s … well, everything about Lavar Ball, really … the first two picks were as everyone expected and the Celtics decided that they liked Duke small forward Jayson Tatum.
Tatum’s the kind of high-level scorer who can free up some space for Isaiah Thomas, and the Celtics have upgraded the team that just went to the Eastern Conference finals without mortgaging their future. Great moves.
On the other end of the trade, the 76ers get the point guard they’ve always wanted and add a piece to their exciting young team. All the trusting of the Process seems to be paying off, and if Markelle Fultz is all he’s cracked up to be, this will be a historic move for the Sixers.
Betting advice: These moves don’t move the needle a huge amount for the Celtics, but if you were on the fence before, you should feel more comfortable trusting them now. The Sixers, on the other hand, have seen their odds change significantly (for the better) since orchestrating this trade, and for good reason.
San Antonio and Golden State: the best get better because other teams are stupid
It’s not a lot of fun to watch a draft process that’s supposed to impose parity reward the best teams with great young talent at little to no cost, but good teams draft well and teams that draft well end up being good, I guess. San Antonio’s pick is maybe the most San Antonio pick of all-time: Derrick White out of Colorado was unrecruited by DI programs, grew six inches in college, played one season with the Buffs, and will now be at least a valuable role-player for the Spurs. Maybe he’ll grow again, who knows. Great fundamentals.
If anyone’s got the time and capacity to develop Jordan Bell from an unbelievable athlete into a valuable NBA player, it’s the Golden State Warriors. They didn’t have to sell the farm to jump up and grab the Oregon forward, and they don’t need him to play tons of minutes right now. He’s a great fit for the Warriors, with the defensive versatility and offensive explosiveness they’ve used to build a dynasty. The worst-case scenario is they remain the best team in the league by a slightly smaller margin.
Betting advice: This shouldn’t affect the Golden State line at all, but some badly needed young talent could help the Spurs’ odds.
New York Knicks: Ntilikina is good but the Knicks are still trash
Phil Jackson’s quixotic mission to unite our divided nation by fixating the searing heat of our collective hate upon himself continues. After floating the idea of trading his most valuable asset, and then spending the week devaluing that asset by talking shit about it, Jackson went into the draft as firm as ever in his conviction that the triangle offense can and will work without Kobe Bryant making up for its flaws, selecting French star Frank Ntilikina. He’s a really good prospect, absolutely, but doesn’t necessarily project as a one in the NBA. Jackson’s commitment to an offensive philosophy that’s starting to show its age isn’t doing anyone favours.
Betting advice: The Knicks, like the Bulls, have disappointed so much this offseason that they’ve become almost a parody of themselves. There might be value in taking the over: most punters are seething with hate for these teams and there is a higher floor for losses in the modern NBA. Although the Knicks might might found out exactly where that floor is.